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Statement of Steven G. Scott, D.O.
Chief, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Serivce
James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital, Tampa, FL
Veterans Health Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Congresswoman Brown, Congressman Bilirakis, and Congressman Miller, thank you for the opportunity to discuss the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital Therapeutic Recreation Therapy Program and its role in the rehabilitation of those who serve our country.

In my role, I have always emphasized the importance of recreation and sport activities in personal development and rehabilitation.  My colleague, Cathy Williams, has presented an overview of the James A. Haley Recreation Therapy Program and its benefits as a patient-centered service.  I would like to focus and discuss the importance of recreation therapy to Veterans from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF).

We are in a new era of rehabilitation and recreation therapy.  Our society values sports, recreation and leisure.  Sports and recreation activities have been an important part of the lives of our newest Veterans, and their identities have frequently been linked to these activities, so injuries that limit their ability to participate may have significant impacts on their sense of self.  Changes in warfare and battlefield medicine have led to new injuries and new challenges in rehabilitation.  Some of our newest Veterans come to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with brain injuries, ranging from minimal to profound; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health problems; and multiple injuries that often need prolonged rehabilitation. 

In this new era of rehabilitation, recreation therapy success is possible through specific inclusion in a multidisciplinary rehabilitation team that includes physical, occupational and speech therapies.  Recreation therapy provides an environment of adventure and discovery within which Veterans can practice and integrate the skills learned from the other therapy team members.  For our newest Veterans, recreation therapy provides new hope and opportunity to discover new goals and dreams for the future; it is integral to the rehabilitation of our new Veterans providing opportunities to relearn skills, develop relationships and find meaning and purpose.

In addition to this new approach to care, technological advances have opened up new opportunities for Veterans to participate in recreation activities and sports.  New prosthetics for amputees allow Veterans the opportunity to participate in competitive sport activities or in community events.  Wheelchair technology has allowed family members to transport severely injured Veterans, allowing them to participate in a range of public activities.  The internet and video games have opened new possibilities for connecting through social networking.  And recreation activities such as hunting and sailing, that were once not possible, are now available.

The newest Veterans have greater interest in extreme sport and recreation activities, adventure and competition.  A wider variety of activities are available now than ever before.  Horseback riding, adaptive golf, hot air balloon flying, kayaking, waterskiing, sled hockey and scuba diving are just a few of the possibilities.  We have observed seriously injured Veterans run a marathon, compete in a 20 mile bike ride, and catch a 100 pound fish.  We also had a seriously injured, burned, and blinded Servicemember record a song that he composed in his room on his tape recorder.  The joy and achievement of these experiences are beyond words.

Recreation therapy gives new freedom to those who fought for our freedom:  freedom to run when they could not stand, freedom to think when they could not remember their name, freedom to be successful when they felt lost, and a feeling of hope for a new meaningful life at home.

Thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you today.  My colleagues and I are prepared to answer any questions you may have.


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